Finally! An analysis of election results that makes sense

I have been trying to make sense of the recent Presidential election amidst the cheering on one side and the second guessing on the other side and I was not getting a resolution. Too much raw data and opinion and nothing that actually explained what had happened.

I think the confusion comes from the fact that I was looking for a political analysis when the election was actually a marketing success and can be explained in terms of marketing and branding strategies which are more basic and are more easily understood.

I read these 15 words on Linda Popky’s Marketing Leverage Blog and it opened the door to a new understanding of what happened in this election.

…in a very short time, Obama built a strong, powerful personal brand–basically from scratch.

Forget ideology, transparency, media bias, associations, etc. Obama came up with a better way to present a coherent promise of value to voters that resonated with them. That is what a brand is and does.

While party stalwarts on both sides were working on the mechanics of getting out voters, calling in favors, and attacking weak points of opponents, Obama did what was necessary to create a personal brand that was sufficient to overcome criticism during the campaign.

A brand is an identifying symbol, words, or mark that distinguishes a product or company from its competitors.

Sufficient to say that Barack Obama and his advisors did an outstanding job of this and it won the election.

There is another side to this powerful concept of branding and that is the basis for its power.

A brand is a promise of value to customers, and it sets a certain expectation.

A successful brand launch is a wonderful thing, but there is a Sword of Damocles hanging over any brand which will fall when the brand fails to deliver what is promised.

Barack Obama’s expansive brand of "Hope" and "Change" offer a wide variety of futures depending on the expectations of the voters. As a result, he may have created a set of conflicting expectations which he may have difficulty reconciling.

To use an automotive metaphor, I would like to hope that his brand of hope and change will result in a "Mustang" future instead of a "Yugo".

We shall see.

Read more lessons to be learned from Obama’s victory after the jump. I have linked to articles on this election by Jack and Suzy Welsh and Linda Popky. They are well worth your time.

Barack Obama’s Victory: Three Lessons for Business by Jack and Suzy Welch


The Illinois senator built his decisive win on three leadership principles:

* Start with a clear, consistent vision.
* Execute well.
* Have friends in high places.

This column is not about ideology. The election is over. And while we believe John McCain is a great American whose economic platform made better sense for business, especially in terms of free trade, tax policy, and job creation, we look forward with hope to the Presidency of Barack Obama. If his is an America for all people, as he has so passionately promised, then surely it will also serve the interests of the millions of hard-working small-business owners and entrepreneurs who are so much a part of this country’s strength and future.

Brand Obama: How Barack Obama Really Won the Presidency
by Linda Popky


While I agree that all three of these are true, they’ve missed something critical: in a very short time, Obama built a strong, powerful personal brand–basically from scratch.


In the early days, the candidates were often defined by their demographics (female, African-American, Mormon, ex-POW, divorced Catholic, etc.). But as time went on, it became clear that Barack Obama had done a tremendous job building a strong brand, based on change, hope, inclusion and making a difference for America. He did this using a combination of grass roots efforts, traditional media, and an outstanding use of new media, from websites and blogs to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, from personalized donation emails to brightly colored logowear that was hot and hard to find.

This marketing view of the election explains to me why some of us had such different impressions of Obama after hearing the same speech. A brand message will not resonate with those who have had bad experience with similar brand messages in the past. We hear the message, but we discount it based on negative experiences. Someone with no knowledge of history can only go on what they hear and read about the product or candidate.

Time will tell whether Obama will deliver on his promises or not. For the good of the nation, I hope that he does deliver in a way that we can look forward to better times.

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0 Responses to Finally! An analysis of election results that makes sense

  1. Jim White says:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this branding analogy. Marketing strategies abounded in this campaign; both candidates relied on the same tried and true methods that trigger our decision-making processes. Each candidate faced challenges and exploited opportunities using a lot of techniques and principles developed on Madison Avenue.
    Basically, McCain was faced with maintaining market share while Obama needed to increase his; I think their strategies reflected this and their “brands” were developed accordingly.
    McCain’s strategy, to make nice with evangelicals and the neocons, while sound in principle, blew up in his face, in part because alienated a lot of his own supporters within the Republican Party. Obama realized that in order to win the election he would have to redefine the market while simultaneously developing his brand, his success in accomplishing this is reflected in the election results.

    I do, however, think it’s a little late for the “Sword of Damocles”…in my opinion she’ll need ALOT of sharpening after we pull her out of what’s left of the GOP.

  2. No sharpening is necessary. The sword of public opinion hangs over every elected leader.

    Bush enjoyed a brief moment of popularity but the sword fell on him when he failed to deliver on his implied promises. Same with the GOP.

    Obama has created expectations in his followers that will be difficult, if not impossible to satisfy. This will be a major test of his executive abilities.

    Those of us who did not vote for him did not believe he could deliver what he promised. If he delivers, he will earn our respect. If he does not, we will not be surprised.

    We have him for the next four years at least and we hope he creates a Mustang future, not a Yugo future. I remember that the Yugo was an exciting prospect when it was first introduced and one of my friends bought one. Now they are the target of scathing humor.

    Let us hope that Obama is able to meet the expectations he has created.

  3. Jim White says:

    I can see that you tend to bristle at the mention of McCain’s failings; it’s not my intent to offend you on your own forum so, out of respect, I’ll focus on your comments about Obama’s strategy and brand.

    That said, while I voted for Obama I don’t consider myself “one of his followers” (I hope to goodness you never considered yourself a “follower” of Bush?!) so I might not be representative of the kind of person you feel put him in office.
    I have modest “expectations” and he’s already shown the propensity for satisfying them. Perhaps those of y’all who didn’t vote for him have greater expectations than I do, I expect him to do the best he can to get this country back on the right track.

    From the looks of things it will take a monumental effort (if it’s even possible) to restore the USA to pre-Bush era prosperity in 4 years so I’ll wager he won’t “earn (y’alls) respect.”

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